One of several adaptations produced this year of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel about 1920s opulent decadence is unfortunately anything but. The Great Gatsby Musical, not to be confused with the likes of Gatz that was playing in the West End until recently, feels unfinished. Written and directed by Linnie Reedman, The Great Gatsby Musical felt more like watching a workshop of a show than a fully formed piece.
In such a small space with hardly any set to speak of, bar a piano and some moveable chairs, the whole thing came off as under-rehearsed. The musical numbers, composed by Joe Evans, were largely forgettable and all the ensemble efforts, except the tango-inspired ‘I Bet He Killed A Man’, had eggy lead-ins and (when present) shoddy harmonies. The most frustrating problem with the songs was that they neither informed us of anything we didn’t already know about the characters within the scene, or did anything to further the story. They were numbers which could be removed from the piece without affecting the continuation, which surely defeats the object of creating a musical in the first place? I want to hear the innermost thoughts of the character which cannot be expressed through just words, not a little jazz-infused ditty that could be a stand alone tune outside the confines of the show. It is also a show which illustrates that the recent craze of using actor-musicians is not always a good idea.
That being said, there were some performances that deserve some plaudits. Raphael Verrion stood out as the best in show, despite Nick’s role as the ‘narrator’ of sorts and not the ‘star’. He may not have had the strongest voice, in the one solo allowed him, but his acting was subtle, consistent and his character was the only one who truly felt believable. If he had been but a little broader and muscular he would have been a fantastically charismatic Gatsby.
Matilda Sturridge’s Daisy Buchanan, permanently open mouthed and whispy of voice, is a nice take on the character. She feels too young and wholesome to be playing the role, but she does it with conviction. Her voice is of the same ilk as Florence of ‘The Machine’ fame which is very listenable but not very period appropriate. She does whole-heartedly act her socks off whilst in song however.
Often it is a player in a smaller, less-pressured role who steals the limelight. That’s the case here with Alyssa Noble shining in her comedic role of Lucille. She may not be the strongest of singers, but it is almost unnecessary when the rest of her performance makes her so watchable throughout.
If the rumours that The Great Gatsby Musical has big ‘in town’ aspirations than there is a huge amount of work to be done by all involved. The only way I can see a transfer happening is with a new score, a new book, a new set, new choreography and a largely new cast. The ‘Rather-Disappointing’ Gatsby then, if you will.
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By Tom Norman @Tom_Norm
7th Aug - 1st Sep 2012
King’s Head Theatre, London, N1.